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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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News >  Health

Washington skin cancer rates still rank among the highest

New research suggests that avobenzone in sunscreens can break down into potentially harmful substances when exposed to sunlight and chlorinated water. Meanwhile, the chemicals oxybenzone and octinoxate have been banned in Hawaii because they can be toxic to coral reefs. (Dreamstime/TNS / Tribune News Service)
New research suggests that avobenzone in sunscreens can break down into potentially harmful substances when exposed to sunlight and chlorinated water. Meanwhile, the chemicals oxybenzone and octinoxate have been banned in Hawaii because they can be toxic to coral reefs. (Dreamstime/TNS / Tribune News Service)

Washington’s Department of Health has a cheery summer reminder for you: Washington is among the states with the highest rate of skin cancer diagnosis.

About 4,000 Washingtonians were diagnosed with a skin melanoma in 2014, the most recent year for which state cancer data is available. That gives the state about 52 cases of melanoma per 100,000 residents.

In Spokane County, that rate is slightly lower, with an annual average of about 46 cases per 100,000 people. The counties with the highest melanoma rates are in the Puget Sound.

“It may be due in part to a mistaken assumption that, since skies are often overcast and temperatures mild, the risk of sun damage is low,” the Department of Health said in a news release. “Eighty percent of the sun’s UV rays can pass through clouds and can reflect off surfaces like water, sand, or snow, increasing exposure to UV radiation.”

Friday, kicking off Memorial Day weekend, was designated “Don’t Fry Day” to raise awareness about the importance of sunscreen, even on cooler or overcast days.

The amount of radiation absorbed varies based on the day’s UV levels, which can be searched online. A score higher than three on the scale, which goes up to 11, means you need sunscreen.

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